Search - Jason Ringenberg :: Empire Builders

Empire Builders
Jason Ringenberg
Empire Builders
Genres: Country, Rock
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1

On his fifth solo album, the ex-Scorcher's politics take a whiplash left turn, but it's the sharper, deeper turn towards songwriting that counts most. With the exception of the spoken opening track (reprised as a closer) a...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Jason Ringenberg
Title: Empire Builders
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Release Date: 10/30/2007
Album Type: Import
Genres: Country, Rock
Styles: Country Rock, Roots Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1

On his fifth solo album, the ex-Scorcher's politics take a whiplash left turn, but it's the sharper, deeper turn towards songwriting that counts most. With the exception of the spoken opening track (reprised as a closer) and the Fahrenheit 9/11-friendly "New-Fashioned Imperialist" (pounded out by a Cajun marching band), the messages are couched in sly, engrossing narratives. Ringenberg finds himself in the German countryside only to be stalked by the confederate flag, celebrates a black airman's pride in the face of racism, and, on the surprisingly gorgeous "Chief Joseph's Last Dream," proves he can sing without hiccupping and write without irony or hyperbole. He can still stomp out the twang rock--his homage to Link Wray lives up to the source--and he hasn't lost his comedic touch, but he's never penned anything quite as harrowing as "She Hung the Moon (Until It Died") or tackled an epic like Jim Roll's "Eddie Rode the Orphan Train" with so much heart, grace, and nerve. --Roy Kasten

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CD Reviews

Woody Guthrie is alive and well. . .
Bob Sloan, Rowan County KY | Rowan County, KY | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

". . .in the person of a youngster named Jason Ringenberg.

The local college radio station's nightly "Americana" music program featured him last week, and I ordered his new album "Empire Builder."

Best cut, so far as I'm concerned, is "Rebel Flag in Germany," reflecting on the fact the Confederate battle flag has been taken up by skinheads and neoNazis who aren't allowed to flaunt swastikas. The song ends with the line "Hell, I don't even want to see that flag in Tennessee."

Ringenberg, like Guthrie, has a tendency to turn pieces of American history most of us don't think about enough into songs, as with ""Tuskegee Pride" (about the Tuskegee airmen of WW II) and "Eddie Rode the Orphan Train." (If you don't know what an "orphan train" was, Google it and learn about a very dark and sad story.) Then there's "Chief Joseph's Last Dream."

There's an old Merle Haggard tune ("Rainbow Stew") included on the CD, but most of them are written by Ringenberg. Even an old-fashioned love song called "She Hung the Moon Until It Died."

And I'm convinced this sort of stuff is where Woody Guthrie'd be, if he were young and alive today.

Electric guitars and a few weird noises and all.

Great CD. Highly recommended. Only eleven cuts, but every one of `em's a ringer.
Ringenberg- Great American Songwriter
John Carroll | Alpharetta, GA USA | 09/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jason Ringenberg once again delivers his unique style of rock, country, and folk music on Empire Builders. There are some pointed political statements on songs such as American Question/American Reprieve and Rebel Flag in Germany. The latter expressing what so many southerners, such as myself, really feel about that damn flag. He makes sure the rock gets back in the equation on Link Wray. Eddie Rode the Orphan Train is a hauntingly beautiful song written by the talented Jim Roll. Hell, there aint a weak song on this one. If you like Jason's previous records, you won't be disappointed. Personal favorite is Tuskegee Pride about a black fighter pilot in WWII. Half the Man, written for his father, is honest expression about what matters most in this life. In this day and age of focus group driven radio and here today/gone tomorrow one hit wonders, there are still gems out there like Jason Ringenberg. Go to his and pick up a copy.

Ambitious and fruitful politically themed album
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 09/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Ringenberg's latest solo work is a musical meditation on America abroad. Most of the songs were written while touring through Europe and Australia in 2002 and 2003, and given the political climate (not to mention Ringenberg's cowboy hat and Midwestern drawl), he found plenty of cultural mirrors to reflect in. The disconnect of an American abroad provides contemplations on the USA's international reputation ("American Question"), and the insidious spread of our culture and iconography ("Rebel Flag in Germany"). America's internal conflicts, including the clash of bigotry and patriotism ("Tuskegee Pride"), and manifest destiny's impact on native cultures ("Chief Joseph's Last Dream") provide additional grist for the mill.

The songs pose the sort of questions that Alan Jackson's "Where Were You" protagonist might come to with a year or two's distance from 9/11. Having shaken off the initial confusion, one can't help but look past the black and white view our government has posited, and consider how others in the world see us, and historical parallels to the current world situation. Ringenberg provides observations, rather than answers, closing with a meditation on empire. This is the sort of political and social contemplation that marked Springsteen's "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad," and while Ringenberg's sing-song delivery isn't as stirring as Springsteen's raspier Guthrie-meets-rock tone, his timeliness and view are just as welcome.

Beyond the social commentary, the album provides several apolitical moments, including a rockin' tribute to Link Wray featuring Eddie Angel on guitar, a twangy new ballad ("She Hung the Moon (Until it Died)"), a wonderful tune about the writer's father ("Half the Man"), and Jim Roll's incredibly sad tale, "Eddie Rode the Orphan Train." Their internal focus provides needed balance, and nicely contextualizes the bigger picture songs as more personal observations than political broadsides.

These ambitious, politically reflective lyrics show a greater depth than any of Ringenberg's earlier works. He takes care to lay down some fine twangy rock, but it's the itch in his social consciousness that gives this album its soul."